UNIVERSITY PARK — It was another record-setting year for the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
Thon raised $12,374,034.46, shattering last year's total of $10.69 million, for the Four Diamonds Fund. The total was revealed Sunday afternoon at the close of the 46-hour marathon, which has now raised more than $100 million for pediatric cancer patients and their families.
“I feel like it really still hasn’t sunk in,” Thon overall finance chairwoman Jen Stipa said. “I was expecting that we would have a successful fundraising year, but when we calculated it, it was a surprise, I think, to all of us.”
This is the second consecutive year Thon has raised an eight-figure total. The more than $100 million overall helps to take care of patients’ medical bills and fund research toward finding a cure, Four Diamonds Fund Director Suzanne Graney said.
“When you think about all the families that are able to be helped with $100 million, it’s staggering,” she said.
The Bryce Jordan Center reached capacity several times during the weekend, creating long lines outside. The doors were closed for the final time around 6 a.m. Sunday, a time Overall Rules and Regulations Chairman Mike Wellner said is a lot earlier than organizers expected.
Despite the bigger crowds and the fact that Thon is growing year after year, Wellner said he doesn’t think the event is outgrowing the BJC, but he admitted he doesn’t know what the future will hold.
The stands were packed throughout the day Sunday with a range of neon colors, and the dancers were feeding off the energy of the crowd in the final hours.
Dennis Golbin, a Penn State senior and one of 710 dancers, said he was so tired that there was a disconnect between his mind and his body, but the crowd and the children kept him on his feet.
“It’s kind of surreal,” he said. “I’ll look around and think not any of it makes sense.”
Another dancer, Zachary Fleming, said he has felt the ache of the Thon “dancer’s wall,” but it’s not as bad as he was expecting. He said there were ups and downs in terms of energy, but he expected his lows to be lower.
Fleming said the mental fatigue was the worst part. But as he stood in the middle of the floor in front of a packed Jordan Center, the only thing going through his mind was “wow.”
Senior Patrick Keen said Thon, especially the home stretch, is something that everyone needs to see.
“It’s probably the most special experience I’ve had at Penn State,” said the senior dancer, who stayed awake with the help of spending time with his Thon child.
Penn State head football coach Bill O’Brien also made a trip to the stage right before family hour saying he believes Thon is one of the major events that define Penn State.
“In my opinion this is the greatest university in the country, in the world, and it’s really because of this day right here,” he said.
The success this year and continued success as the years go by will be determined in part by the exposure Thon gets, Overall Chairman Will Martin said.
Martin said factors like the documentary, “Why We Dance: The Story of Thon,” and the global line dance that encouraged people across the world to participate in one of the 2013 line dances via live stream will continue to make sure Thon keeps beating expectations.
The immense amount of growth over the past few years has some questioning how long Thon can keep breaking records, but Four Diamonds Fund co-founder Charles Millard said the event has no plateau. The veteran of 36 Thons said the need will always be there and more and more students are becoming involved every year.
But for him the money is not what defines Thon.
“It’s not just the bottom line even though the bottom line is what helps the fund do what it does,” he said. “It’s just the excitement and energy and dedication and love.”
Matt Morgan can be reached at 235-3928. Follow him on Twitter @MetroMattMorgan.